Spore - Fostering human to plant relations by translating bio activity in sounds and melodies
Creating a product or service that merges form, interactions and sound into a successful whole.
Moving beyond human-centred design in order to understand complex inter-species systems.
Spore gives a voice to plants in order to make their communication more accessible to humans. It helps to build up a deeper and more equal relationship between plants and humans that goes beyond the daily watering routine. We wanted to explore ways of visualizing the activity, behaviour and communication of plants through sound.
2-week group project with Inna Zrajaeva, Viggo Blomquist and Bastian Reichhardt at the Umeå Institute of Design in spring 2020
Hardware UX Design /
Prototyping / CAD / Visualisation / Modelmaking / Storytelling / Photography
Spore Concept-video, 2020
The concept behind Spore
The entire project was based on working with sound as a design element. The idea at the heart of this project was to give plants a voice.
We decided to focus on the use-case of indoor plants.
The logic of Spore is that different plant activities are measured and then translated into sounds. For example, the photosynthesis rate is translated into different layers of sound. The sound gets faster or slower depending on the rate of photosynthesis.
Rather than developing a monitoring device with oversimplified feedback (A Tamagotchi-like, “I want water”), we wanted to create something that represents the actual workings of the plant and create a naturally complex interface that requires deep engagement.
The human-centred design approach has created more just design practices and products - but facing the current environmental crisis we have to think about how design could serve
different lifeforms and complex inter-species ecosystems
The design of this experience was inspired by tea sets, as we wanted to create a meditative and calming interaction that focuses on the quality of the experience rather than on pure utility
Spore consists of 3 parts: a sensor unit, the speaker and a charging tray The idea is to make the interaction as minimal as possible -there is no power button, the sensor activates when it is put in contact with soil, then it sends out a signal to the speaker and the devices connect.
The 3 rings on the speaker represent a sound-channel each. The volume of the different channels can be adjusted by turning the rings. The channels can be amplified separately or can blend into one sound-landscape.
This enables the human to have a more analytical listening experience.
The speaker can be moved around the home, so the human can listen to the plant while reading a book or when going to sleep. It was important to us that it is very little about Spore that can distract the human user. There are no additional companion apps nor is there data storage of any sort.
Sticking the probe into the soil of the plant
You can use Spore on many different plants but only at one plant at a time
Analysis the plant's activity with the probe
The probe is measuring activity with a moisture sensor and a multispectral camera
Translating the plant's activity it into sound
You can adjust three different sound-channels represented by 3 turn-handles
The Sound Design
Instead of creating an interface that directly assesses the plant's state (for example the plant needs more light), Spore is intended to create sensory channels of understanding between a plant and a person through auditory feedback.
We worked to understand how different kinds of plant activity could sound and how the behaviour of the sounds would change. Keeping the physical interface of the product as simple as possible enabled us to focus on the potential of sound as an interface.
Spore's sound landscapes consist of 3 different channels -
Photosynthesis, Growth and Plant-mood
Materials, Rituals and Qualia
Spore is a device that can be used by one plant at a time. This way the human can focus on a single plant and give it more attention. We designed the use of Spore as a meditative and calming action that focuses on the experience rather than on pure utility.
The design of this experience was inspired by tea sets, as we wanted to create a similar interaction of taking time for a simple yet rewarding task.
Therefore Spore has a ceramic aesthetic, to emphasize fragility, the connection to the earth and alludes to the context indoor plants usually exist in. Spore intentionally appears to be analogue. There are no LED lights nor buttons nor is there a screen.
How we created the Spore
By the help of Arduino sensors, we captured data about conductivity and moisture within the stem and instantly transformed it into sounds. Thus we were able to explore the world of our green fellow creatures and could quickly test our idea.
As a basis for natural organic plant communication, we recorded sounds created by natural materials.
The recorded sounds were audio-edited, transformed into patterns and supported by further synthesized sounds
To curate our sound-lancscpes we created a matrix to map the tracks we wanted to include - for each sound, we collected inspiration form nature
This project was only two weeks long and given this short time we had a very dynamic and collaborative way of creating and making decisions
Spore Process-video, 2020
How we created the prototype
Spore was 3D-printed in plaster material
The parts were handpainted with aquarel colour
The final Renderings